Medical marijuana in Florida could bring Democrat surge to ballot box


Florida Democrats are banking on the legalization of medical marijuana to bring out the youth vote in this year’s midterm elections by introducing a constitutional amendment that seeks to make Florida the first southern state to legalize marijuana use.

Despite the Florida governor’s office, as well as a handful of competitive House seats being at stake, the nation will be watching Florida to see if marijuana brings young people to the voting booths.

“I wish that it didn’t take medical marijuana on the ballot to motivate our young voters to go and vote because there’s far too much at stake for them and their children,” said Ana Cruz, former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. “But listen, we’ll take it any way we can get it.”

Florida will be a critical test to determine whether increases in voter turnout, seen in both Washington and Colorado in 2012, were an anomaly or the start of a trend in advance of the presidential election in 2016. Activists will use this information to plan and launch legalization campaigns in at least six states, according to the AP.

While President Barack Obama remains unpopular, the marijuana initiative may be one bright spot for Democrats in an election year where Republicans are trying to shift focus to the president’s health care law.

“I would rather have it on the ballot than not,” said Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant who managed Obama’s Florida campaign in 2008. “It could have a marginal impact, and a marginal impact in Florida could be the difference between winning and losing.”

According to a national survey sponsored by George Washington University last month, nearly 40 percent of likely voters said they would be “much more likely” to vote if a legalization measure was on the ballot, with another 30 percent saying they would be “somewhat” more likely to vote.

Organizers of the medical marijuana effort plan to raise and spend $10 million on their campaign, with a focus on registering voters to cast absentee ballots.

“We want to be able to have our stereotypical, lazy pothead voters to be able to vote from their couch,” said Ben Pollara, a Democratic fundraiser and campaign manager for the United for Care group.